The 2018 FIFA World Cup came down to the final two teams after Croatia defeated England 2-1 following extra time to book a place in the final against France.

It is the first final for Croatia, who were not on the pre-tournament favorites list, but quietly went about asserting their quality over their opponents during the course of the tournament.

The finalists topped the group that consisted of Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria, beating all three of them, and then came back from a goal down against Denmark, Russia and England in the knockout phase of the competition.

England, on the other hand, won two of their group stage games against Tunisia and Panama, but lost to Belgium in a game both teams did not want to win to get the better half of the draw. They beat Colombia and Sweden in the round of 16 and quarter-finals respectively before falling to the Croats.

The English were also not pre-tournament favorites and a dream run to the semi-finals had the whole country dreaming of a first World Cup triumph since 1966. The #itscominghome hashtag was trending and was on the tip of everyone’s lips after their quality performances during the tournament.

Former players, the English media, a few of the players and supporters were almost certain it was their year. Such was the confidence they forgot to notice the threat posed by Croatia, who have been one of the best teams in the tournament.

Luka Modric Luka Modric is a contender for player of the tournament at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. In this picture, Modric of Croatia celebrates victory following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Semi Final match between England and Croatia at Luzhniki Stadium on July 11, 2018, in Moscow, Russia. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Possible player of the tournament contender and Croatia captain Luka Modric reminded them of this after the match in Moscow on Wednesday. He believes the English media underestimated their quality and he called on them to respect their opponents more.

"We proved everything differently that people were talking. Especially English journalists, pundits from television, they underestimated Croatia tonight and that was a huge mistake,” Modric said after the win over England, as quoted on Sky Sports.

"All these words from them we take, we were reading and we were saying 'OK, today we will see who will be tired.' As I said, they should be more humble, and respect opponents more. That's it."

There is no doubt this England team will receive a hero’s welcome when they return to their homeland, while they have also made a nation fall back in love with international football after years of heavy expectation and heartbreak.

They were dynamic through the tournament with Gareth Southgate choosing to take a young team — the youngest and least experienced of all 32 nations at the World Cup. They showed they are fearless and the manager believes many of the players have “come of age” on the international stage.

"There'll be a new benchmark and level of expectation," Southgate said after the loss, as quoted on BBC Sport. "To become a winning team there are hurdles you have to overcame — and we've surpassed many of them."

"Many of our players have come of age on the international stage,” the England manager added.